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How busy is Columbus Day weekend along the Maine shore?

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Munich, Germany
posts: 60
reviews: 66
How busy is Columbus Day weekend along the Maine shore?

We plan a trip to New England for fall next year. As planning a trip is already halve the fun for me, I already started, although there is plenty of time left.

After a few days in Acadia, we plan to drive along the shore to Boston. I just realized, that we will leave Acadia on Saturday at the beginning of Columbus Day weekend.

We planned two overnights stays along the way, visiting lighthouses, towns, do some hikes, stopping on our way wherever we feel like and not to prebook accommodations.

Now I am not sure if this is still a good idea and if pre booking accommodations will be a must during this time.

We rather prefer it on the quite side, so I am not sure what to expect during Columbus Day weekend towards crowds/traffic along the Maine shore.

Therefore any input / experience welcome!

Wolcott, Connecticut
Destination Expert
for Bar Harbor
posts: 747
reviews: 127
1. Re: How busy is Columbus Day weekend along the Maine shore?

We have never hit a lot of traffic or people on Columbus Day weekend; certainly not like the summer. You should, however, make hotel reservations. In our experience the hotels do fill up quickly.

New York City, New...
posts: 4,111
reviews: 36
2. Re: How busy is Columbus Day weekend along the Maine shore?

We were there this past Columbus Day, the weather was unusually warm and wonderful and there were plenty of vacancies most places. Traffic was not much of a problem except near "fall festivals" and "pumpkinfests" etc. As long as you are not too fussy about finding oceanfront/oceanview/deluxe accomodations etc, you would probably do just fine.

Central Maine
Destination Expert
for Maine
posts: 5,984
reviews: 131
3. Re: How busy is Columbus Day weekend along the Maine shore?

Columbus Day is traditionally the last major weekend of the fall tourist season for many seasonal businesses and coastal visitors. However, because it's also considered "prime viewing time" for New England fall foliage, many folks opt for non-coastal destinations.

Those of us who have spent much time on the Trip Advisor Forums have also learned that "busy" is an extremely subjective term depending on where someone lives and what their daily-life travel experiences are.

In general, even in its bigger cities and towns, Maine is still essentially a rather rural state.... compared to major crowds and rush-hours in places like Boston or New York City, Maine doesn't have crowds or traffic. However, folks from a very rural area like northern Maine, the western praries of the American west, or similar areas, find the hour-or-so "rush hour" in Portland, ME or the number of folks on a Maine beach most days to be "very busy."

On most Columbus Day weekends, you shouldn't have a problem getting where you want to go or seeing what you want to see. However, because many of the folks coming to Maine for fall foliage tend to book accommodations along the coast and use them as a "base of operations" for day-trips inland, it would be smart to pre-book your accommodations. I know this contradicts the advice from at least one other post on this forum, but I also have personal experience with friends who came to Maine for that weekend, did not pre-bookk their accommodations, and spent several hours and additional driving miles tryiing to find overnight accommodations "on the fly." They ended up driving about 40 miles (each way) off their intended route to find something in mid-range lodging at a reasonable price. Probably boils down to your own comfort level with how much time you're willing to spend looking for lodging vs. looking at scenery.

Munich, Germany
posts: 60
reviews: 66
4. Re: How busy is Columbus Day weekend along the Maine shore?

Thanks for the info! In this case we will definitely book our accommodations in advance, but I am less worried about crowds during Columbus Day weekend.

We are really looking forward to this trip. For my husband it will be something completely new (our last US trips were to Hawaii). It will be his first time to the East Coast and I hope he will love it as much as I did when I had the chance to live there 25 years ago :-)

I already learned a lot through this forum (I read quite a lot in the last days).

Thank you all for taking the time to give such great input and advise!

Bass Harbor, Maine
posts: 202
5. Re: How busy is Columbus Day weekend along the Maine shore?

I would suggest reservations for Columbus Day Saturday, at the least, and you may encounter two or three night minimums at that time. (Respectfully, 2013 was an anomaly with the government shutdown effecting the Acadia area in a not so swell manner. As a result, there may be pent up demand for Columbus Day in 2014.)

As mentioned, all of this depends on your comfort zone and tolerance for drama. You will probably find something if you start your search early in the day but, as Mainer mentioned, it all depends on how you want to spend your vacation - hiking scenic trails or searching for cell phone signal so that you can book your room for the evening. The weather forecast, not the actual weather, will make a difference as well. If beautiful weather is forecasted, there will be lots of competition for lodging, especially for Saturday night. On the other hand, a crummy forecast can send the campers looking for lodging as well. I hope that this helps. Happy Planning - October is lovely.

Southern Maine
Destination Expert
for Maine
posts: 3,134
reviews: 11
6. Re: How busy is Columbus Day weekend along the Maine shore?

One activity I can highly recommend is the Pumpkinfest in Damariscotta and Newcastle (twin towns in the midcoast):


We have gone twice and not run out of activities yet. The pumpkin catapult and launcher are just good old-fashioned fun: pumpkins flying through the air and landing in the water. The giant pumpkin drop onto junk vehicles seems to always have a glitch, but ends up firing up the crowd when it finally works. The pumpkin boat races always make me want to don a wet suit and find a giant pumpkin with a motor. We have yet to see the parade, but hear good things.

We stay in Boothbay and drive over on the River Road. Boothbay has a nice fall festival at the railway museum that weekend as well, so there is plenty to do, but nothing feels hectic and crowded.

Munich, Germany
posts: 60
reviews: 66
7. Re: How busy is Columbus Day weekend along the Maine shore?

You are right bassharborbaby: Many of the nicer inns I looked at seem to have this 3 nights minimum for Columbus day weekend, so I keep searching for choices without a three night minimum.

The Pumpkinfest sounds like a great idea. I had not yet looked at Boothbay, so that could be an alternative too.

Thanks again for the great advice!

Bremen, Maine
posts: 645
reviews: 26
8. Re: How busy is Columbus Day weekend along the Maine shore?

Thanks for the plug for Pumpkinfest CB48. It's my local festival that I also volunteer at, so of course I love it! But honestly, it crossed my mind this year that it is one of those festivals that has a true local feel and is done just for good old down home fun. Not to put down any of the larger festivals in the summer that people plan their vacations around, but this one certainly lacks the commercialism and chaos that some of the others have.

Sternchen16, if you do plan to attend Pumpkinfest, staying on the Boothbay peninsula would be a nice option....close by and gives you the opportunity to see another wonderful Maine coastal area. If you do want to stay closer to Damariscotta, I can recommend the Newcastle Inn http://www.newcastleinn.com/ You can walk to all the festivities from there.

Munich, Germany
posts: 60
reviews: 66
9. Re: How busy is Columbus Day weekend along the Maine shore?

The Newcastle Inn looks lovely! Thanks a lot sailorgirl2001!

Southern Maine
posts: 530
reviews: 43
10. Re: How busy is Columbus Day weekend along the Maine shore?

If you happen to include Kennebunkport in your plans, consider staying at the Old Parsonage Guest House. Prices are extremely reasonable and the hostess is from Germany. It might be nice to hear a familiar language!